Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Six passports have been cancelled for "national security"

Earlier in the year we learned that John Key had responded to the "threat" of people travelling to Syria to participate in its civil war by cancelling their passports. Key said that "less than 10" people had been affected, but a couple of people wanted to know more and used FYI, the public OIA request service, to inquire further. The response? No passports have been cancelled or denied under sections 4A, 27B or 27E of the Act. But:

In terms of section 8A of the Act, since 2012 the Minister has cancelled six passports in accordance with section 8A. Two wer ein 2012 and four in 2013. (a total of seven New Zealand passports have ever been cancelled under section 8A since the legislation was introduced)

[Link added]

None of the cancellations has been challenged. Unfortunately, all information about the victims of this probably unlawful act has been withheld. Two of those reasons - national security and protecting people's safety - are uncontroversial; naming the victims might expose them or their families to victimisation from the Syrian regime. But information is also being withheld to protect the entrusting of information to the Government of New Zealand on a basis of confidence by other governments or international organisations. In other words, we're violating the freedom of movement of kiwis on the basis of untested allegations by foreign spies. Which seems awfully familiar...

Sadly, neither of the requesters asked whether any of the victims were outside New Zealand when their passports were cancelled. If so, then this effectively exiles them, as Immigration will not let citizens board an aircraft to New Zealand without a valid passport. It would be useful if some MPs or journalists asked that obvious followup.